THE EMPRESS OF CERTAIN
In a Levantine land
her lips are filled with milk and honey.
I approach with laughter, cymbals, ankle-bells,
with horses, flutes, basil and marjoram,
coming as a guest, coming as a caravan.
Chilled infusions of hibiscus await, blood red.
I come to her incomplete, a chrysalis.
If I am silk,
she will nurture me on her mulberry skin
until I burst into ecdysis.
She sits cross-legged inside her pavilion,
its gossamer curtains shadow
color-striped walls, wind
from the west lifting her henna-red hair.
“Men,” she smiles, “men are like dogs — call they come,
throw stones they run.”
She captures with silk: A guest and a fish each lasts three days,
“But we can always find another fish.”
Princes amuse, Queens are her friends. Every child
dreams of the Empress — radiant beneath her rainbows.
Some mistake her clarity for cruelty:
“Are you fasting, Sister,” asks the man with dark,
melodic eyes. “Not if I lay the table,” she replies.
On that day it ends, as one day it must,
she expects I will be brave.
Take me and plant me in her land.
Say lemon-tree. Say lavender.
Cold moon. Stone arch. Oregano.